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Posts Tagged ‘political corruption

Democratic Republic for Sale by Narcessistic, No-Nothing Legislators. Shouldn’t the American Public Expect Better?

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In the days of Dole and Howard Baker, et al, Congressional members knew something about the legislation they were voting on. These days Congressional members know little to nothing about the legislation the vote on…and for far too many in Congress, they have no interest in learning about the legislation. Instead they spend an average of 60% of their time “dialing for dollars” and attending fundraisers. During the days of Dole and Baker, congressional members spent most of their time working on legislation and learning what was in the legislation. Now we have “no-nothing” narcissists representing us at both the state and federal levels, according to

This current state of affairs doesn’t work for me. I expect my legislators, whether in Congress or my state house, to work for my and my community’s benefit rather than for the benefit a wealthy donor or a corporation seeking protective legislation.

However, when we have a millionaires congress as currently exists, those legislators idea of average middle income lives doesn’t compute. Essentially, they have no clue what it means to struggle to meet expenses and keep/stay out of crushing debt when incomes are declining. Over the last 30 years, millionaires have completely segregated themselves from the rest of American society to the extent that millionaires no longer live in middle income communities so they have no point of reference or understanding of the lives and challenges facing middle income earners, let alone have friends and associates who are not millionaires. Their friends and associates are among their own wealthy class and they associate only among their wealthy class. As a consequence, those of us who are not among that wealth class, as donors and friends. hardly make into our legislators thoughts.

The most recent example of support of the congressional millionaire’s club was the truly bipartisan Senate approval of a Farm Bill amendment that makes it illegal for individual states to approve GMO labeling, even though marches across this country and around the world demanded GMO seeds and product labeling. Instead of listening to the millions of people, who do have legitimate concerns about the genetic effects of GMO foods on humans and animals, both Republicans and Democrats in the Senate cast their votes for Monsanto. Essentially, both sides of the aisle put the concerns of their millionaire friends and donors ahead of the concerns of millions of average families.

It’s taken 30 years of electoral politics of putting money ahead of expertise, knowledge, understanding and community – accelerated by Gingrich’s money raising focused changes in the House – to lead us to this moment when once again millionaires control Congress and all legislation. (see Washington Post associate editor and author of Act of Congress: How America’s Essential Institution Works, and How It Doesn’t Robert G. Kaiser op ed)

At the turn of the 20th Century, millionaires controlled both Congress and state legislatures. That control worked fine for the millionaires, but not so well for anyone who challenged their domination. Tesla, the father of AC electrical current (now the American standard), was destroyed by JP Morgan’s millions (and his political connections) who had spent heavily backing Edison’s DC current. Henry Ford’s first patent application was denied because the millionaires who controlled congress didn’t want the competition he offered the public.

Even as millionaires consolidated their control over state and federal governments, average workers, often enduring deadly and extraordinarily harsh working conditions for very little income, were drawn to communism as espoused by Eugene Debs and other union organizers. Meanwhile the millionaires Congress, ignoring the often deadly plight of workers, along with many states chose to crack down violently on workers and worker movements. Thousands of workers died at state sponsored hands when those workers revolted, via strikes, against working and living conditions.

Finally, the strikes and street corner public outcry grew to the point that prescient economists and politicos like TR recognized that capitalism itself was endangered. Moreover, politicians like TR understood and spoke out in the public forum about the failure of basic ethics and morality among the politician class: that essentially legislation could be bought by or ransomed to the highest bidder at both the federal and state levels.

TR’s reforms began to bring unbridled money dominated capitalism under control, to bring ethics and morality back into government, and to enable competition, including creative destruction of old industries for newer, more inventive ones, back into the capitalist fold.

Later, FDR chose to focus on the human benefits of reform, once again recognizing the significant rise of communism among the working class, to quell the masses who saw only the idealistic good of communism rather than the downside of Stalin and Communist Russia. FDR’s fight against the pro-business SCOTUS Lockner Court was yet another example of the realization that, for capitalism to survive, average workers had to be brought back into the fold as participants in the decision making process: workers had to see some benefit to their labor to prevent a mass uprising against corporations and capitalism at large…and the massive poverty – and small business bankruptcies – that accompanied the Great Depression.

Our modern day millionaires Congress, on both sides of aisle, fails to understand the lessons of history in their constant search for donations and corporate money support. But throughout history, from the earliest days of Mesopotamia to 20th Century America, average people revolted against and overwhelmed governments they saw as not working on their behalf. The same will occur again with our modern day millionaires Congress and state legislatures. Out of the masses another TR will arise to claim an ethical and honorable balance. He or she will find an eager American willing to support his/her presidency that speaks to average, every day, middle income American values and morality with regards to work and living standards.

Communism was the driving force that changed the political millionaires club in Congress and the States. I don’t know what the next counter force will be, but I do know it will occur unless the political, judicial, and pundit class wakes up to harm it has wrought with purchased no-nothing legislators.

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Do Lobbying and Campaign Contributions Help Corporate Fraudsters?

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Logo Image of the non-partisan Sunlight FoundationThe non-partisan Sunlight Foundation posts about the correlation between corporate fraud and lobbying, presenting findings that should concern every American.

[B]eing politically engaged appears to help firms and individuals get away with fraud for longer and, even when they are detected, reduce the severity of punishment.

The “Corporate Lobbying and Fraud Detection” paper studied lobbying from 1998 to 2004, comparing the 239 firms that had committed financial fraud with those who hadn’t. The researchers found a few very interesting things:

– On average, firms that committed fraud spent $3.48 million lobbying a year between 1998 and 2004, as compared to $1.97 million for firms that did not commit fraud. (So fraudulent firms spent 77% more, on average.)
– Firms that committed fraud increased their lobbying expenses after committing the fraud, by about 29%, on average.
– Overall, 17% of the frauds were detected by regulators (as opposed to analysts, stakeholders, insiders, etc.). But among the firms who lobby, just 12% of the frauds were detected by regulators.

Yu and Yu “conjecture that lobbying has a strong effect on detection by regulators.”

The “Political Contributions and the Severity of Government Enforcement” paper looks at punishment instead of detection: How harshly are perpetrators of financial fraud dealt with?

Fulmer and Knill find that “contribution from a PAC in the first year of the fraud results in the accused individual being banned for 2.90 fewer years, having probation for 4.99 fewer years, being imprisoned for 5.81 fewer years and 75% less likely to receive both prison time and an officer ban.”

If the executive gives directly, the punishment is also going to be lighter, according to the calculations of Fulmer and Knill. The ban from being an officer will be 3.64 years less, probation will be 1.59 years less, prison time will be 4.11 years less, and the probability of both prison and a fine will be 56% less.

CEOs who contribute the largest amounts of money get off even lighter.

Both papers offer striking findings, though it’s hard to pinpoint whether it’s the lobbying and contributions that are affecting regulatory enforcement, or whether companies and executives who are politically active also tend to be companies and executives who are the most sophisticated in dealing with government generally.

There’s certainly more research to be done in looking at how these companies’ lobbying and contribution activity changes around the time they commit fraud. For example, do they start lobbying on SEC issues? Do they start giving more to members on committees who have budgetary authority over the SEC?

Still, the correlations are strong enough to be troubling. They highlight yet another reason why we ought be concerned about the role of money in politics.

If this research angers you as much as it does me, then I recommend you join RootStrikers.

Our republic is dangerously out of balance. Well-financed special interests routinely bend the levers of power to benefit the few at the expense of our general welfare.

Political bribery has been legalized by the courts, and both major parties have been co-opted and corrupted by the system.

The result: The upper 1% have done well. The other 99% of us have been left behind. And now we’ve reached a breaking point.

Rootstrikers aims to restore power over American politics and government to 100% of the people. We hope patriots of all political persuasions will join us to help build an unstoppable grassroots movement that demands and delivers lasting reforms.

Henry David Thoreau wrote, “There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root.” Together, we must strike at the root of America’s problems.

Nothing in Washington DC will ever change until we, The People, truly take back our country by demanding an end to the corrupting influence of money, via lobbying, donations and SuperPacs, in the political process.

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